When thinking about whether or not you should get married, it can be useful to start by thinking about what your expectations of marriage actually are.
What are the expectations of marriage to you? Does it mean spending your life in eternal harmony with the one person who completes you? Or is it a commitment made while appreciating all the challenges that it might bring?
Marriage can come with all kinds of pre-conceived ideas. Many of these can put a lot of pressure on you, both individually and as a couple. But it can be useful to think of marriage as the beginning of a journey, not the end.
Every marriage will come with its challenges. Even the most-suited couples are likely to face difficulties. Even if the way they feel about each other doesn’t change, the circumstances around them probably will. People get new jobs. Children might be conceived and born. A couple may face unexpected financial pressures. Family members may get ill. Relatives may die.
Going into marriage expecting some hardship, while admittedly a less idealistic and romantic way of looking at things, can help you to be more realistic about what might happen in the future. That doesn’t mean feeling any less excited about getting married – but it does mean thinking about how you might adapt to change when it does come along – how you and your partner might, as a team, learn to negotiate around difficulty and work towards solutions that you can both agree on.
Likewise, the same kind of mindset can be really important when it comes to how you think about compatibility. While it can be tempting to want to meet someone who is going to fulfill our every need and fit with us in every conceivable way, waiting for this person can be a little like waiting for a unicorn to wander into your back garden.
Getting on well with your partner is, of course, really important. The expectations of marriage indicate, there’s no one person totally perfect for someone else.
Even if this doesn’t become apparent right away, it’s fairly likely there will be things about your partner that you will find challenging – or just plain confusing. As long as you feel you can be yourself around them and there’s opportunity to negotiate around these differences, they don’t have to be a big problem. Again, it’s about learning to work together – to discuss what you find hard so you can come to accept it.
And aside from this, a little bit of difference in a relationship can be a really good thing! It can allow you to challenge each other and to help one another see things from a different kind of viewpoint.
Cohabiting can help. It may sound obvious, but living together can allow you to get to know each other much more closely. It can show you what it would be like to see this person every day – and build a shared space together. However, be mindful that sometimes, couples may have very different ideas about where such an arrangement may lead. It’s not unusual for one person to have assumed that getting married would be the automatic outcome of cohabiting. It’s important to keep the channels of communication open so that you remain on the same page.
The final point, though, is that ultimately there are limits to how certain you can be. In the end, we can only act on the information that’s available to us now – aside from making the right preparations; we can never fully control what’s going to happen in the future. Sometimes, it can be useful to simply accept this and make a decision based on what we already know, not what we wish we could.